Did the NFL Whiff With Twitter and Internet Streaming?


The NFL partnered with Twitter to stream NFL Thursday Night games. The league is selling this as a revolutionary way to reach out to the young folk with their cord-cutting and their social media. The league also points out they did not take the highest bid, focusing on user experience.

Not mentioned: the revenue. When is the last time you read a story about NFL deal where the awesome, record-setting revenue was not front and center? The revenue is not mentioned, because it was paltry. Twitter, per a report, paid less than $10 million for the 10-game package. CBS and NBC are paying $450 million for those same 10 games.

These were effectively third-tier rights. CBS and NBC have their own digital rights. Verizon has a mobile deal. The exciting package also came with onerous advertising restrictions. Facebook reportedly backed out because of that. But, still, that’s half what the NFL got for Yahoo!, exclusively, streaming one London game.

That sum is nothing in Silicon Valley. Consider some of the companies that could have been interested. Google, Apple, and Facebook are three of the nation’s four most valuable companies. Amazon trails behind at ninth. Stream NFL games? Apple could buy the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the NHL, and MLS in cash.

This looks far less like a “bidding war” and far more like “no one had much interest.” The NFL took its wares to smaller and increasingly desperate Twitter with its stagnant/declining user base. Even Twitter, poorly monetized, drops much bigger money on startups. Users of the future are already on Instagram, Snapchat, or something none of us have heard of yet.

Streaming NFL content had little to do with cord-cutting. (A) The diehard NFL fan who must watch two crappy teams on Thursday Night will be the last to cut the cord. He/she is going down with the subsidized sports watching ship. (B) You don’t need a cord to watch these games. They are on NBC and CBS. John Q.

Cordcutter can pick up an HD antenna for $30 on Amazon.

If you’re conspiracy inclined, Twitter still has a disproportionate impact on media coverage. The NFL has wielded influence over its business partners in the past. Maybe this partnership comes with a quid pro quo down the line

Twitter backlash/reaction is all the justification an editor needs to publish a story. Journalists are now guided by an easy-to-manipulate virtual world. In many cases, Twitter bots dictate the news disseminated to the public.

In my opinion, the American media have declared war on football and the NFL. Making Twitter dependent on the NFL is Roger Goodell’s answer to the New York Times’ concussion narrative. The NFL now has influence over the engine (Twitter) driving nearly all media narratives.

Most NFL moves are about finding further markets to enhance the revenue stream. If that was the motivation here, the league appears to have pushed things a step too far.